Have You Heard

Post date: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 12:24am

Have You Heard About... Snowblind

… the ice demons who travel through snowstorms?  Snowblind by Christopher Golden tells the story of a New England blizzard that hit twelve years ago, when eighteen people in a single town died or disappeared mysteriously. Families were torn apart, marriages were broken, and people all across town watched their loved ones die before their eyes. And in the middle of the storm, there were vague whispers about the “ice men.”

Fast forward to the present day, when most everyone is still afraid of the big snow storms that come their way, although no one has died in nearly a decade. But there’s a doozy of a blizzard coming up, and people all across town are acting strangely…almost as if they’ve become different people. And the whispers about the ice men are starting up again…

This book scared my socks off, and maybe it’s partially because of the monstrous winter we’ve had, but this is also just a fantastically spooky novel that doesn’t have to rely on blood and guts to scare people.  There is such an ominous, foreboding tone that seeps into every page of the novel and never lets up. Part of it is the fear of being stuck in a blizzard without heat/power/food, but there’s the undeniable supernatural presence as well, and this is where the real terrors lie. Christopher Golden plays upon our fear of the unknown by only giving us glimpses of the ice men…in the distance on a darkened road, behind a shed in the middle of a blizzard, in front of a second story window on a snowy night. It’s truly terrifying, to the point where I was jumping at tiny noises and having a hard time reading it in my empty apartment.

But there’s a surprising amount of emotional depth to the story as well. The grief, love, loss, and frustration that the characters experience is just as strong as the scary sections, and this is what sets Snowblind apart.  For anyone who thinks that horror is “just” about scaring the reader, I invite you to try this book.  It might make you look at horror novels a little differently.


Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - 12:29am

Have You Heard About... Parasite

… the revolutionary Intestinal Bodyguard[TM]? With just one pill every two years, and occasional adjustments by your physician, all of your medical needs are managed for you. From allergies to diabetes to hypertension, your Intestinal Bodyguard[TM] takes care of everything. Would you take that one pill, to save yourself from daily pills or injections? What if I told you that the Intestinal Bodyguard[TM] is a genetically modified tapeworm?

This is the world of Mira Grant’s Parasite. Yes, most people are willing to deliberately infect themselves with a tapeworm to make their lives easier and improve their health. Intestinal Bodyguards have been shown to be safe repeatedly over the years, and no one has successfully proven that they were harmed by one of SymboGen’s carefully constructed creatures. However, a new disease is developing in increasing numbers, and despite SymboGen’s best efforts to control reports about the problem, it is starting to look like the Intestinal Bodyguards may be involved.

Mira Grant is the queen of the near-future thriller, and it looks like her Parasitology series will be every bit as exciting as the Newsflesh books. I can’t wait to read the second!

* Mira Grant also writes very good urban fantasies as Seanan McGuire.


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 1:44am

Have You Heard About... My Age of Anxiety

… the brave and honest memoir that takes an unflinching look at anxiety disorders? In My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel, the author constructs a story that is part memoir/part scientific and philosophical look at the history of anxiety and how it has become a commonly diagnosed psychiatric condition in the last 30+ years. For readers with a casual interest in the history of psychology, this could provide enough information to entice them into reading. The research is very thorough, and the writing is conversational and witty while maintaining a level of academic authority.

But for readers (like myself and several of my family members) who have been diagnosed with clinical anxiety, or who know someone who suffers from anxiety, this book isn’t just an interesting exploration into its history. The author uses his research as a way to make sense of his panic disorder, so he uses a lot of his own personal experiences as examples to back up the history.

This was a powerful reading experience. Scott Stossel provided the words to help me explain aspects of my own anxiety, and as most anyone with a psychological disorder can attest to, there’s a large stigma still attached to mental disorders, so any sort of explanation can be a powerful tool.

I can take a pretty good guess as to how difficult this book was to write, and I have tremendous respect for anyone who can turn their anxiety into something so vulnerable and graceful and brave. Its biggest audience will be people who have first-hand experience with anxiety disorders, but judging by the reaction the book has received, that should be a large group of people indeed.


Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 1:52am

Have You Heard About... Wedding Ring

… families, memories, misunderstanding and the power of communication? Wedding Ring by Emilie Richards is a book on mother/daughter relations. The title deals with the many quilts that Helen has made over her lifetime, but that is not the main focus of the story line – four generations of women, Helen, Nancy, Tessa and Tessa’s dead little girl, Kayley. Set in the Shenandoah Valley back country, this is a powerful book of a lot of misunderstanding on the part of the three women.

They come together because Helen is in her 80s. She lives on a hard-scrabble farm and has become a very opinionated hoarder. Her daughter, Nancy, wants to move her to a retirement home and is struggling in her upscale marriage. Nancy’s daughter, Tessa, is struggling to keep her entire life together as she learns that the convicted drunk driver who killed her daughter, Kayley, is getting out of jail. As Helen, Nancy and Tessa clean out the house, they learn about themselves and each other. These three women have had a habit of assuming what has gone on in the past is still part of the present. As each of their stories unfold and intertwine, you come to realize, of course, that the past does shape the present but not always in ways you expect. Old resentments, regrets and the death and memories of Kayley all play a very emotional part of the story. Simple living, hard work and determination, and finally just talking to each other bring all of their memories, good and bad, to the surface.

This book will touch each person who reads it differently, and it is extremely difficult to put down. Laughter and tears will keep you thinking about your own family relationships.


Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Tags: book, fiction, review
Post date: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 1:41am

Have You Heard About... The 5th Wave

… the new YA dystopian novel that’s received rave reviews from readers and critics alike? Meet The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, part one of a projected alien invasion dystopian trilogy.

The basic premise is that aliens have visited Earth and are methodically wiping out the human population, deploying destructive “waves” that involve everything from viruses to natural disasters to placing human/alien implants into what’s left of the human race so that no one knows who to believe. Mulder’s mantra on the X-Files becomes particularly relevant in this situation: Trust No One.

Cassie Sullivan is alone after watching her father die and her little brother board a school bus to a mysterious military base. When she is taken down by an unseen sniper and left to die, she finds herself in the care of a mysterious eighteen-year-old guy named Evan Walker. Cassie needs him in order to find her brother but there’s something about him that doesn’t make sense, and if Cassie trusts him, will she be placing her trust in the enemy’s hands?

Now THIS is how you do young adult dystopian fiction! This is not a knockoff of the latest trend. This is not dripping in sappy, all-consuming romance. This is genuine, hard-edged, scary, paranoid, thrilling YA fiction with some really solid writing. Now, I hardly consider myself an authority on YA literature, but this is one of the best-written teen novels I’ve read in a very long time. Some people are referring to this as the next Hunger Games, and while the two don’t have much in common plot-wise, I wholeheartedly believe that this will be the next big thing in the YA world. Don’t miss it.


Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 - 1:25am

Have You Heard About... Comic Genius

… the art of funny people? Not their comedy — their looks. Matt Hoyle took portraits of more than eighty different comedians to make Comic Genius. Some are very simple pictures, like Eddie Murphy giving the camera a sideways look. Others are subtly humorous, such as the cover photo of Steve Martin or David Steinberg’s toast tie. Still others are frankly bizarre. I can’t really describe Carol Burnett’s picture; you just have to see it.

The book has a nice blend of classic comedians and new-comers. A few of them are quoted briefly, and short biographies of everyone are included at the end. However, for the most part, this book is simply a collection of portraits. It works well as both an art book and a collection of comedians, reminding us of all the times they have made us smile. I doubt you can get through the whole book without at least one of them succeeding again!


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 1:53am

Have You Heard About... Bellman & Black

… the funereal emporium of Bellman and Black? Like most readers, I came to this novel because I loved Diane Setterfield’s first novel, The Thirteenth Tale. If you have not yet read this book, I’ll give you a heads up: Bellman & Black is distinctly different from The Thirteenth Tale, but if you head into it with an open mind, you’ll likely find that this book has its own unique charm.

Even though the book clocks in at just over 300 pages, it covers the span of William Bellman’s life, from age 10 until old age. At age 10, young William uses a slingshot to kill a rook sitting in a faraway tree. Although this seems at first to be a trivial incident, the consequences of his action will follow him all throughout adulthood. At first, William is a young, energetic man working and learning at a nearby textile mill. But then a raging epidemic sweeps through town, and after a series of excruciating losses, William finds himself entering into a macabre business deal with the mysterious Mr. Black. And so, Bellman & Black is born - an emporium of the finest funeral garb and supplies.

There isn’t much in the way of plot, at least not in terms of suspense or escalating action. What we have instead is a series of decisions and actions made over the course of William’s life that ultimately affect the outcome of the novel. There’s not much of a climax, not much in terms of suspense. It’s a very even and measured story. William’s character is also very structured and orderly, and these characteristics transferred well into the reading experience. The measured pace and careful precision of Setterfield’s writing made the novel feel like clockwork, which is especially fitting, since much of the novel deals with death and the passage of time.

Setterfield also includes a wealth of historic details, particularly in terms of textile production in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century. (It’s not entirely clear what time period the novel is set in.) While I don’t generally choose novels with such a wealth of historical detail, the information made the story compelling and gave it a rich texture that I enjoyed.

And although this novel didn’t have the sumptuous literary tone of The Thirteenth Tale, I loved the dark, brooding Gothic overtones of Bellman and Black. Diane Setterfield seems to be carving out a special niche for herself and I only hope we won’t have to wait as long for her next novel!


Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Tags: book, fiction, review
Post date: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 1:37am

Have You Heard About... The Blossom Sisters

… Gus Hollister, the 3 B’s and the wild – and sometimes wacky – things that can happen when you least expect them? In one of Fern Michaels’ newest books, The Blossom Sisters, Gus Hollister’s wife has just kicked him out of the house and wants a divorce. Elaine’s a gold digger with a rap sheet of prior marriages a mile long. Gus didn’t listen to the Blossom sisters, his beloved granny Rose and aunts Violet and Iris, who tried to tell him she was no good and up to something. Now Gus is estranged from the family who raised him and turns to his best friend Barney for help. The 3 B’s are up to something and want no part of Gus and his problems, but Granny Rose just has to help her grandson and so does Barney.

What happens next is a series of lots of laughter as Gus is on probation with Granny and the aunts. Barney has hired the best lawyers and PIs money can buy to help Gus get away from Elaine. In the meantime the 3 B’s relent enough to let Gus in on what is going on with them. In a very convoluted way, you’ll be drawn into the world of senior citizens and realize that it’s about belonging, being productive and staying active. You’ll also discover what they want out of life and how the 3 B’s make this happen. With the help of Gus and eventually Barney, you’ll howl with laughter at this fast-paced novel as it unfolds to a very happy, feel good ending.


Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Tags: book, fiction, review
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 1:19am

Have You Heard About... Waiter Rant

…about the insanity that comes from working as a waiter for too long? Steve Dublanica has waited tables in New York City for years and exposes the seedy, dishonest, and sometimes disgusting side of the restaurant world in his book Waiter Rant: Thanks For the Tip – Confessions of a Cynical Waiter.

The book covers all sorts of stories, from his first time waiting tables to the time he served Russell Crowe, to the couple who threw a conniption fit because they couldn’t get a “good” table in the back during the dinner hour. Dublanica has already classified himself as a cynic, but he spends a fair amount of time in the book analyzing why these customers (and other troublesome diners) behave the way they do. His conclusions point to an excess of narcissism and the prevalence of a culture based on instant gratification - a cynical and depressing perspective of the American population to be sure, but as Dublanica reminds us, 80% of the people coming into a restaurant only want to enjoy a good meal. It’s the other 20% that are raving psychopaths incapable of functioning in the outside world.

In addition, here’s a lot of insider information about how restaurants are run, why so many restaurants collapse under subpar management, and how some corrupt owners use blackmail and general bullying to keep their pockets lined and their employees obedient. Makes me grateful that I’ve never worked in the food industry before…

For anyone who works customer service or works with the public, there is a lot of relatable material in here, regardless of your profession. And for the rest of us who want to ensure a pleasant dining experience for everyone involved, there’s a list of tips on how to make the most out of your restaurant visit and how not to drive your waiter crazy.


Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 - 1:25am

Have You Heard About... Will and Whit

… taking chances and facing your fears? Laura Lee Gulledge’s Will and Whit is a sweet, thoughtful look at a girl who does just that. Wilhelmina, Will for short, is 17, but she has an old-fashioned soul. Will makes lamps, partly for fun and partly to keep away the shadows that surround her since her parents died. Her two best friends are equally creative (and equally flawed), and the story follows them through the summer before their senior year of high school. They make new friends, fall into and out of love, and support one another through the opportunities of a local arts carnival and the challenges of Hurricane Whitney, which leaves their town without power for days.

Laura Lee Gulledge does a beautiful job with both the writing and the visual art of this story. The characters are wonderfully complex and detailed, a feature that is mirrored by the artwork. In particular, the shifting shadows around Will give the reader clues to her inner feelings, fears and hopes. The story flows naturally through peaceful afternoons on the river, dark nights during the blackout, and heartfelt talks in sunlight and in shadow.


Reviewed by Fran (staff)